Decision Duels

by Josephine3 min read23rd Jul 20213 comments



(Crosspost from my more casual blog.)

Decision duels are a feature of David's Sling, a novel by Marc Stiegler about technology, nuclear suppression and human rationality. They're used as an organizational means of decision-making, not dissimilar to the double crux - they're not quite debates or policy meetings or games, but they have elements of all three. This is a description of them as they appear in the novel, so that any useful marrow can be extracted. 

  • Duels are best at resolving problems that seem political but are actually engineering problems.
    • This means that there are, in principle, crisp answers separate from the human element.
      • Good for: whether a budget is appropriate, which programs to fund, whether to continue a project or stop it, which avenues of research will be fruitful.
      • Bad for: who deserves a promotion or a leadership position, what an organization's public-facing message should be, which solutions are more ethical.
  • Duels are always between two alternatives, which are stated outright.
  • Both sides are displayed on a screen for an audience, with each side taking up nearly half.
    • A grey section is left to run down the middle for third suggestions.
      • Duels that settle on third suggestions tend to produce the best policies.
      • In some duels third suggestions are prohibited, especially when the question is vulnerable to being redefined or slipped out of.
    • At the top of this screen are the words "LET ACCURACY TRIUMPH OVER VICTORY"
      • Winners are not recorded at the end of a decision duel, but whenever possible both sides are judged based on whether decision that results was the correct one.
  • Each alternative has a representative, called a slant moderator or, informally, a decision duelist.
    • Each may receive suggestions from the audience, and decides whether to use them.
    • Duelists chiefly create text boxes of various colors and draw lines between them.
    • There are no turns taken, and each duelist acts at their own pace.
  • At the start both sides are written as statements, and under these statements are a list of assumptions, placed in amber text boxes.
    • Assumptions can, and in many cases should, be multi-part.
    • Zooming in on these amber boxes shows an explanation for why the assumption is needed.
    • Most of the duel consists of the duelists each challenging these assumptions.
  • Under the assumptions are the opening arguments.
    • Any overly popular, bumper-stickerish slogans are usually listed first, even when the decision duelists don't agree with them, just to get them out of the way.
  • Arguments can be colored in by the opposing side.
    • Purple means an argument exhibits a clear, labelable fallacy.
    • Red means the argument has another kind of flaw somewhere.
      • Zooming in on a red text box shows the opposing side's explanation of the flaw.
    • Other colors are possible but unlisted.
  • Arguments are typically written and then reformulated after the opposite side's criticism.
    • Duelists can invoke probabilities, spreadsheets of calculations, multiple iterations on an idea, and any other means of reaching as correct a solution as possible.
  • The duel continues until one side concedes.


3 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 1:49 AM
New Comment

I like it, sounds like it's just a debate format that works well in a virtual setting.

I wonder if there's a way to add an opening ceremony that helps determine whether this is a question of fact (proceed with the duel) or a question of politics/axioms/goals (cancel the duel).

Is this fictional or real? If it's real, which organizations use it?